Leadership Studies Essay Help


Overview of current issues in leadership. 2

Theories of leadership. 4

Contingency theory of leadership. 4

Path-goal theory of leadership. 5

Situational leadership model 6

Cognitive resource theory. 7

Leadership styles. 8

Ethical and moral leadership. 9

Power and leadership. 10

Action plan and recommendation. 10

References. 11

Overview of current issues in leadership

Leadership is the ability to lead people in an organizational context through sound decisions that enable the leader obtain followers and to influence them into taking a certain course of action. Leadership differs from management in that it involves inspiring and innovating (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2012). In contrast, management involves planning, coordinating, and organizing (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2012). Although leadership and management are two different things, they go hand in hand. Any efforts to differentiate them are likely to be problematic. However, this has not stopped many researchers from dedicating a lot of their time to the analysis of differences between the two concepts.


The primary role of leadership is innovation while that of management is administration. Managers copy the practices that have been employed elsewhere to direct subordinates while leaders must be innovative in order to attract followers. In management, the most crucial thing is the systems put in place within the organization. In contrast, leadership requires focus to be directed primarily towards people. In most cases, managers easily get trapped in short-term day-to-day problems while leaders have to look at issues from a long-range point of view all the time. Consequently, management is inclined towards the maintenance of the status quo while leadership is constantly challenging it. Therefore, management and leadership influence organizational performance in different ways. They tend to complement each other in ensuring that the goals of the organization are achieved.

Situation influences the choices made regarding leadership objectives. In other words, the practice of leadership varies depending on the prevailing situation. According to the pure situational theory, great leaders are simply puppets of the prevailing social forces (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2012). This theory promotes the view that the question of whether a leader will be effective or not is influenced by the structural features existing in the society and not on the characteristics of the leader (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2012). The characters of leaders merely play the role of mediating variables in determining whether the leaders will be effective in their leadership roles or not.

Apart from the character traits of the leaders, there is also a need for every leader to acquire certain leadership skills. These skills are normally acquired through a long-winding process of development. During this process, the leader derives satisfactions as well as frustrations. With time, they gain more experience and acquire a better understanding of their leadership roles. Every leader needs to have the skill to diagnose the situation in which he finds himself in a proper manner. Furthermore, he needs to be skilled in the selection of the behavioral response that best suits the diagnosis.

In leadership, it is common for differences between general and task-related traits to be evaluated in terms of their contribution to leadership effectiveness. General traits more or less refer to the character traits of the individual. General traits are often equated to hereditary factors while task-related traits are equated to environmental factors. An individual would display these traits even if he was not operating in a leadership capacity. In contrast, task-related traits are only relevant when exhibited in the context of a specific task. In this discussion, concepts relating to emotional intelligence, cognitive factors, key motives, as well as hereditary and environmental factors are normally highlighted.

Leaders with emotional intelligence are able to understand their own emotional responses as well as those of people around them. They “take stock” of their own feelings and connect them with those of the people around them. Such leaders have greater chances of being successful because they are always in control of the situations around them. They are always assessing the current situation and seeking for the most expedient solutions. They pursue their goals while at the same motivating and empathizing with their followers.

Since leadership entails the ability to influence, cognitive factors must always be put into consideration. Cognitive factors constitute a major aspect of the process of understanding how different people react to different attempts at influencing their actions. An awareness of cognitive processes also enables the leader understand the best approaches of influencing following to adopt a certain course of action. This awareness informs the decision of the leader on whether he or she should use coercive methods, threats, or rational arguments to appeal to followers. The issue of whether the use of some of these methods is acceptable for a leader is a subject of intense controversy and debate both in leadership theory.

Theories of leadership

Contingency theory of leadership

One of the theories of leadership is the contingency theory. In this theory, both the style of the leader and situational conditions are put into in the assessment of the effectiveness of leadership tasks. According to Fiedler (2000), the main elements of any given situation include relations between the leader and the member, the power of the leadership position, and task structure. The leader may choose on whether to orient his or her actions on the task or the relationship. In Fiedler’s (2000) view, task-oriented leaders tend to be more effective in situations where they have moderate or low levels of control. In contrast, relationship-oriented leaders tend to be more effective when operating in situations where they have moderate control.

The relations between the leader and the member partly influence the leader’s ability to influence members as well as the conditions in which he is able to do so (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2012). For instance, a leader who has gained acceptance among members of a group is likely to have a more favorable situation compared to the one who is yet to gain acceptance. Similarly, task structure is influenced by several factors, including the accuracy with which a decision can be verified for correctness, availability of different ways of accomplishing the task, and availability of a wide variety of correct solutions. Regarding position power, focus is on rewards and punishments. For a leader to be effective, he should have mechanisms for rewarding and punishing followers depending on their performance.

Fiedler (2000) points out that different leadership styles are effective in different situations. The extent to which a leader becomes effective is “contingent” upon the extent to which the situation is favorable as well as his or her orientation. This way, it is evident that the contingent theory of leadership makes significant contributions to our understanding of the factors that influence the effectiveness of a leader.

Path-goal theory of leadership

When Robert House initially proposed the path-goal theory, the objective was to define the practice of workplace leadership (House, 2001). Today, this theory is greatly influenced by theories of motivation (House, 2001). One of these theories is the goal-setting theory, which requires people to be given challenging goals and to reward them upon accomplishing them. Another theory of motivation is the expectancy theory, which defines the expectations that drive people into working hard. The assumption is that people work hard because they value the things that come with hard work such as promotion, socio-economic status, and a better salary. It is also assumed that people work hard because they have a high level of expectation that their efforts have a high chance of enabling them reach a certain goal. The propositions made in these theories are critical to a better understanding of path-goal theory.

The path-goal theory is based on the proposition that for leaders to be effective, they must succeed in helping their followers achieve their goals (House, 2001). This means that it is the responsibility of leaders to offer their subordinates all the information required to enable them achieve all their work-related goals. The leaders must establish a relationship in which employees are rewarded for their efforts and accomplishments. This increases their expectancy that their efforts and work behaviors put them in a position where they can attain their goals.

The theory implies that effective leaders are those who clarify all the appropriate paths followers should adhere to in order to achieve their goals (House, 2001). One of the ways in which leaders can do this is by engaging in behaviors that create an environment that facilitates goal attainment (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2012). For example, the leader may give information to employees regarding the link between a certain course of action and goal attainment. Alternatively, the leader may embrace certain behaviors with a view to remove obstacles that may prevent followers from attaining their goals. In other words, this theory puts emphasis on the role of leaders as facilitators in the process of attaining goals. It seems that on the basis of this theory, the effectiveness of a leader is tied to that of the subordinate. Blame for failure of the employee

Situational leadership model

In the situational leadership model, the objective is to encourage leaders to adapt their leadership styles depending on the relationships forged with members and nature of the task. This model has far-reaching implications for the way the effectiveness of leaders is assessed. This model also gives leaders the freedom to choose on whether to put more focus on people or on the task. The choice depends on the nature of the task to be accomplished.

In essence, the maturity of the person being directed is the focus of this model in terms of determining which course of action the leader should take. People with a low level of maturity are considered to lack the skills and confidence to be self-reliant in their work; they must always be pushed to attain work-related goals. Further up the maturity scale, the leader may encounter followers who have the willingness to perform a task but lack the requisite skills to enable them attain the desired goal. Another category encompasses those who have the willingness and the skills but still lack the confidence to do the task. At the highest point of the maturity scale, a leader may encounter followers with the willingness, skills, confidence, and commitment to perform a task. For each of these followers, different leadership methods are required.

The precise way in which the situational leadership model defines the contexts in which leaders operate makes it one of the most commonly used approaches in government agencies and corporations (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2012). In these organizations, the model is mainly being used in employee training (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2012). It may be important for leaders to attempt to try out the leadership styles suggested in this model to evaluate their suitability to different categories of employees. In the end, the leaders may be able to identify the styles that enable them achieve the highest levels of effectiveness. Moreover, a comparison of the relative effects of different styles may go a long way in enlightening leaders regarding the importance of adapting choices of leadership to the needs of followers as well as the nature of the task.

Cognitive resource theory

The cognitive resource theory addresses the influence of intelligence and experience in the reactions of individuals under situations of intense stress. The assumption is that experience and intelligence are the main cognitive resources that influence success in leadership. Proponents of this theory argue that although cognitive abilities are of utmost significance, they are not sufficient predictors of success in leadership.

This theory has far-reaching implications on the way leadership is conceptualized. According to (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2012), it creates the impression that it is one thing for a leader to have the requisite cognitive abilities to lead others, and it is a completely different thing for the leader to be able to make use of these abilities when the “hour” of need comes. Too much stress may inhibit the leaders’ abilities to utilize the cognitive resources at his or her disposal in decision-making. Stress influences the leader’s ability to make crucial decisions. This implies that the ability to handle and manage stress is critical to leadership success.

Leadership styles

Different leaders use different leadership styles. In literature, the distinction is commonly on autocratic versus participative leadership styles as well as on charismatic versus transformational leadership (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2012). In assessing the most appropriate decision-making style in any given situation, the normative decision model is normally used. The discourse also focuses on the analysis of communication styles, traits, and visionary components of different categories of leaders.

In autocratic leadership, the leader assumes total control over the decision-making process. This style is most suitable in situations where there is a need for the leader to control his or her followers. In contrast, participative leadership requires leaders to consult regularly with their followers and to seek their opinions before arriving at the final decision. In many ways, this style seems to fit in with the tenets of the path-goal theory of leadership.

In some instances, charismatic leadership tends to be lumped up together with transformational leadership. In other cases, it tends to be treated as a unique leadership style. However, differences between these two styles emerge with regard to the influence process. Charismatic leaders take the ultimate responsibility of not just articulating the vision, but also securing consensus and dedication to that vision. In contrast, transformational leaders are normally open to the input of the followers and the effects of the specific vision, such that they create room for power to be shared and for different parties to participate in the decision-making process.

Using the normative decision model, one can succeed in assessing the most appropriate style for making decisions. For instance, the traits, visionary components, communication styles, and behaviors of charismatic leaders may be suitable for situations where there are deep divisions among followers (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2012). On the other hand, the dynamics of transformational leadership are ideal for situations where there is oneness of purpose among followers as far as vision of the organization is concerned (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2012).

Ethical and moral leadership

The current discourse on leadership has also explored the theme of ethical and moral leadership. Decisions that are founded on ethical and moral principles are normally perceived to be proper and acceptable. This is because they are based on standards that enable organizations define the difference between desirable and undesirable behavior for both the employees and the managers. Leaders who adhere to these standards easily gain legitimacy within the organization.

Some of the most fundamental principles of ethical and moral leadership include honesty, objectivity, avoidance of conflict of interest, and concern for the wellbeing of others (Hughes, Ginnett, & Curphy, 2012). Leaders who succeed in incorporating these principles in their actions effective transform leadership into a process of moral and ethical development. Research on ethical and moral leadership is important because it gives leaders guidance on how to make decisions that not only lead to improvement in organization performance but also legitimacy of the organization’s activities in society.

Power and leadership

Different types of power are ideal for different situations. The bottom line is for the leaders to ensure that they remain empowered in order to be able to continue influencing their followers. The main types of power most discussed in recent literature include reward power, coercive power, referent power, expert power, and legitimate power. The choice of type of power may vary depending on whether one is pursuing solo leadership or team leadership. It may also vary depending on whether the behaviors and attitudes of the leader are inclined towards tasks or relationships with followers.

Using the power at their disposal, leaders can use the so-called “360-degree feedback” to improve their outcomes. According to Antonioni (2000), it is better to use this feedback for developmental purposes than to use it for compensatory purposes. This way, chances of improving outcomes are higher for a leader (Antonioni, 2000). This is simply because the use of this feedback for compensatory purposes carries the risk of producing negative reactions from followers (Antonioni, 2000).

Action plan and recommendation

In terms of recommendations, focus should be on contingency management during a crisis. In such a time, the leader should take into consideration the situation in which he is called upon to lead his followers. If the followers are deeply divided, it would be ideal for him to use charismatic leadership. The ability to stay calm in extremely stressful situations is critical to the leader’s ability to make sound decisions. Similarly, different leadership approaches should be adopted depending on the maturity of the follower. In situations where all followers are committed to the organization vision, the leader may be better off using a transformational leadership style.

The best action for improving charisma and leadership skills should start with an accurate appraisal of the different situations in which charismatic leadership is called for. The second step should entail efforts to improve one’s emotional intelligence. Thirdly, the leader should look for ways of managing stress in order to ensure that all cognitive resources are always being utilized in the decision-making process. Fourthly, awareness on the importance of ethical and moral leadership is critical. It enables the leader use different types of power to lead followers towards improvement in performance while at the same time gaining legitimacy in society. Lastly, one should learn to use 360-degree feedback to develop and inspire the ability of one’s followers.


Antonioni, D. (2000). Designing an effective 360-degree appraisal feedback process. Organizational Dynamics, 4(12), pp. 24-38.

Fiedler, F. (2000). Research on Leadership Selection and Training: One View of the Future. Administrative Science Quarterly, 41(2), 241-250.

House, R. (2001). Path–goal theory of leadership: Lessons, legacy, and a reformulated theory. Leadership Quarterly, 7, 323–352.

Hughes, R., Ginnett, R., & Curphy, G. (2012). Leadership: Enhancing the lessons of experience (Vols. 1-2) (Custom 6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

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